Effective music criticism—criticism that places a song or album within the appropriate social, political, personal, and aesthetic contexts—can be as enthralling and moving as the music it engages. In this course, we will explore different ways of writing about music, from the record review to the personal essay. We’ll consider the evolving tradition of pop music criticism (How is the Web challenging print media? How is the critic’s role changing?) and the mysterious practice of translating sound into ideas (How do we train ourselves to be better and more thoughtful listeners?). Through reading, writing, and class discussion, we’ll contemplate the mysterious circuitry that causes people to embrace (or require) music—from Bob Dylan to Kendrick Lamar —and how best to explore that connection on the page. Readings will include Lester Bangs, Rob Sheffield, Carl Wilson, Ellen Willis, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Lindsay Zoladz, Nelson George, Hua Hsu, and others.